A poignant plea from a group of pupils at a Philadelphia charter school sent recently to Philadelphia’s top prosecutor — that sought release of an inmate widely considered as falsely incarcerated — prompted a barrage of vile threats against those students and one of their teachers from opponents of that inmate.
Ironically, that menacing triggered by publication of that plea in a Philadelphia newspaper, paralleled actions and inactions by Pennsylvania state prison authorities involving that inmate. Prison authorities seemingly proved positions contained in the letter those middle school students sent to Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.
That plea from those pupils concerned Mumia Abu-Jamal, the inmate widely considered a political prisoner.
Recently Pennsylvania prison authorities rushed Abu-Jamal to a hospital for heart surgery related to clogged arteries according to his supporters during a virtual press conference held to present his plight.
Abu-Jamal, convicted in 1982 for the murder of a Philadelphia policeman during a controversial trial, contracted COVID-19 earlier this year. That COVID compounded other medical maladies of Abu-Jamal that relate to negligent health care while incarcerated, his supporters declare.
The student’s letter to DA Krasner stated in part, “Mumia is vulnerable because he is a 66-year-old elder. Mumia’s doctor said that the only cure for Mumia’s medical problems is his freedom. We feel strongly that Mumia should be let out of prison because the prison is the reason he has COVID-19. It’s astronomically important that he get the healthcare that he needs and deserves.”
Abu-Jamal’s chosen doctor and the lawyer handling his medical matters both criticized negligent health care by prison personnel in their respective presentations during that press conference. Their statements echoed the concerns contained in the student’s letter. The doctor and the lawyer both said prison authorities have refused to provide them with information about Abu-Jamal’s condition.
“It is medically documented that Mumia suffered harm in prison due to neglect,” Dr. Richardo Alvarez said during the press conference that featured famed former political prisoner and noted anti-mass incarceration activist, Dr. Angela Davis.
“To this date, I have been provided with no information on Mumia’s condition,” Dr. Alvarez said. (Prison authorities would not comment to reporters citing regulations against providing information on inmates.)
Alvarez and Professor Davis each decried Pennsylvania punishment practices that produced life without parole sentences for over 1,300 inmates presently in Pennsylvania’s state prison system who are now 60-years-and older. The majority of those elderly LWOP inmates –around760 – are in the 65-years-&-older category, according to the most recent Pa prison statistics. Abu-Jamal turns 67 on April 24, 2021.
Angela Davis said, “We know imprisonment speeds up the aging process.” She noted that Abu-Jamal’s deteriorating medical condition “has been exacerbated by prison authorities.”
Moderator of that press conference, respected scholar Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, also addressed the medical neglect received by Abu-Jamal and other inmates nationwide.
“Hepatitis, diabetes, COVID and now congestive heart failure. These are not coincidences but are incidental to being in prison,” Dr. Hill said referencing Abu-Jamal’s medical problems, some of which required orders from a federal judge to force improved treatment by prison authorities.
Hill co-authored a 2012 book with Abu-Jamal entitled, “The Classroom and the Cell: Conversations on Black Life in America.” Abu-Jamal, a Philadelphia journalist at the time of his 1981 arrest for the murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner, has published over a dozen books and thousands of commentaries while imprisoned.
The rabid reactions from some Faulkner supporters to that letter those young pupils sent to DA Krasner, that also questioned flaws in the evidence presented during Abu-Jamal’s trial, evidenced a blinding rage.
Attackers bashed a teacher for supporting “cop killers” and using the students despite the fact those students clearly declared in their letter why they wrote that letter.
The student’s letter stated that they take Abu-Jamal’s plight “personally because one of our classmates is” a relative of Abu-Jamal.
DA Krasner did not immediately respond to the letter from those students.
Curiously, Krasner’s opposition to a new appeal hearing for Abu-Jamal puts him in synch with opponents of Abu-Jamal who are now working strenuously to defeat Krasner’s reelection to the District Attorney post. Those opponents object to Krasner enacting reforms in the criminal justice system.
Krasner maintains his opposition to a new hearing for Abu-Jamal despite Krasner personally discovering evidence now underlying that request for a new hearing. Krasner found that long stashed evidence – documenting misconduct by prosecutors during Abu-Jamal’s trial – in a forgotten storage room inside the DA Office complex.
“We can’t let Larry Krasner stand in the way of justice,” Abu-Jamal’s grandson, Jamal Hart Jr., said during that press conference.
Hart discussed his recent encounter with Krasner at a restaurant in Philadelphia. Hart said he spoke with Krasner and he rejected Krasner’s claim that the DA’s Office is acting fairly.
“Mumia is an innocent man, factually and legally,” Hart said. “Mumia Abu-Jamal is a scholar not a criminal.”